The MSR Whisperlite multifuel stove has been a favourite for bicycle tourers, hikers and travellers alike, for both it’s simplicity and versatility. I used a Whisperlite 700x per year when I was crossing from Europe to Australia and never actually had a technical issue with it – it seemed nothing we could do could break it.
The major drawcard for travellers like me is the fact that this stove runs on petrol. I roll into petrol stations all over the world and filled my fuel bottle for less than a dollar. It was never stressful thinking about fuel because petrol stations are EVERYWHERE.
The plastic componentry and rubber seals of the flimsy-looking fuel pump was a worry for the first few months, because I really had no idea whether they would last the distance. Once we’d built up our confidence in MSR’s plastic and had been burning dirty, DIRTY petrol for a while there, it was evident that the Whisperlite is, in fact, built to last.
Lighting / pre-heating takes some time. You need to fill the lower cup with fuel, light it and wait until the metal is hot. It’s during this time that the stove gets really sooty and black. That said, I’ve found that after you’ve finished using it, you can blow most of the soot off fairly easily.
The stove’s performance with petrol is quite poor. It can take up to five minutes to boil a litre of water, depending on the quality of the fuel I’m using. Time was never really a concern for me – I can be doing other things while water boils.
My only gripe with the product is that I can’t change the heat level while I’m cooking, but more on that below…
– You can burn almost any fuel available all over the world (I use petrol because of it’s abundance).
– I’ve only JUST replaced the seals in the pump, after using the stove for four or five years. Due to the Whisperlite’s simplicity and sound construction, it seems like it will genuinely last a lifetime.
– It’s unbelievably silent compared to other multifuel stoves with simmer control (eg. MSR Dragonfly).
– It’s super easy to clean and rebuild.
– It burns very cleanly and efficiently with high quality fuels such as ‘Shellite’.
– It doesn’t require aluminium cans (like a gas canister stove) which can be a pain to find and a waste of resources in my opinion.
The Why Not
– You have very little heat adjustment at the control valve when you’re cooking. If you know your Whisperlite well, it’s possible to pressurize it to a low level (for simmering a curry) or high level (for boiling water) when you start it up. But once it’s on, you can only increase the pressure and therefore the temperature. I have a solution for this problem though: the SIMMER RING!
– The stove’s performance (boil time) is quite average compared with other camping stoves out there.
– The most recent model has teeth on the top of the legs to keep your pot secure when cooking. The problem is that the legs are sharp and tend to cut through the stove bag (or whatever the stove is packed next to).
– When using petrol, the Whisperlite is dirty. I blow off most of the black grime after use and store my stove in a plastic ziplock bag to prevent it making everything else dirty. It’s also possible to use a clean fuel (eg. Shellite) to prime the stove (preheating the metal so that the fuel instantly vapourises) before turning the control valve to run the stove on petrol.
Would I buy it again?
The Whisperlite is a brilliant product for cycling through 3rd world countries, given it’s reliability and versatility with different fuel types. I would certainly use it again for any big journey I undertake, or even for short tours through regions where I’m unsure what fuels are available.
The Whisperlite isn’t necessary for short tours in regions where you can easily pick up fuel canisters / burning alcohol. Save yourself the weight, lighting time and dirtiness and grab something smaller, faster, more adjustable and lighter.
– MSR Whisperlite Universal (multifuel + canister stove)
– MSR Dragonfly (heat adjustable but really, really noisy)
– Primus Omnifuel